Jan 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm #1254585
@mtaubenLocale: My heart is in the hills
I hope all the bright and committed people out there in Backpacking light land can help me. I have been an avid outdoors lover for many years and have in the last few years turned toward light weight backpacking to explore the outdoors. I have also always considered myself an environmentalist and animal lover. I am a vegetarian and do not wear leather. For many years I also did not use down products. I obviously knew of its light weight and compressibility but did not think it ethical. Then I was told, by a North Face rep. that older geese produce the best down and thus geese are not killed to gather down. I was happy and excited and I quickly bought a Montbell Down Jacket Nunatak down quilt and even down booties. Lately though I have been giving this shift some thought. Is the weight saving worth the moral uncertainty? Are geese really not killed for outdoor gear down? Even if they are not how traumatic and or painful is the harvesting process for the geese? I do wear wool and do believe animals can be "used" by humans in ways that benefit us and harm them as little as possible. So my question is does anyone out there know more about how down is sourced? Are the geese used in down for the outdoor industry really not killed? How painful or traumatic is harvesting for the geese? Is it akin to shearing merino wool sheep or is it torturous? I know Backpacking light carries many great lightweight synthetic garments and gear so no matter what I may look to that in the future. However, I would still like to know more about down. Rarely if ever do I condemn people for making the decisions they do I just want to be able to enjoy the outdoors, and carry as light a load as possible, both physically and psychologically.Jan 27, 2010 at 8:43 pm #1567063
Interesting question. I always thought that down was either a by-product of the food industry or plucked and then left for replenishment, but I really don't know for sure. Either way, I hope they are treated in a humane way. Any knowledgeable people out there?Jan 27, 2010 at 8:49 pm #1567067Jan 27, 2010 at 9:34 pm #1567082
@francoLocale: TarptentJan 27, 2010 at 9:34 pm #1567083
>> Bender <<Participant
Isn't high quality down produced from more mature geese not intended for food production?
Edit: IDFL answers it all!Jan 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm #1567085
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Some down is a by-product of the Chinese food industry – ducks and geese, obviously, in their first year. It is not first-quality, but the birds will be killed anyhow. The volume is large.
Some of the best down comes from Polish goose farms. The food geese are kept in one area (around a pond), and the down geese in another. The down geese are 'harvested' each year at moulting time, when the winter down is coming off anyhow. The down geese on those farms can live to 20+ years, and the down gets better as they mature. Sadly, these down farms are becoming fewer, due mainly to competition from Asia.
And there is a whole lot of down in between. But one thing is clear: the down is generally a by-product in the food chain. Maybe it is better to not waste the down?
CheersJan 27, 2010 at 9:58 pm #1567091
Eider duck down is probably the most humane. Coincidentally it happens to be the finest quality down available. It's harvested in Canada and elsewhere by people who take it from the nest, where the duck has naturally plucked its own down to line the nest and make it warm for ducklings. The harvesters then replace the down they took with natural or synthetic material back into the nest, so no ducks freeze their butts off. In some cases the harvesters just wait until the ducks have abandoned the nest so no replacement is necessary.
Unfortunately it's also ultra expensive due to the amount of labour required to do all this.Jan 28, 2010 at 1:37 am #1567110
@theronrLocale: Los Angeles, California
Presumably the 800+ fill power down used in high end sleeping bags is the stuff most likely to be from the "harvested" (humane) or "dry plucked" (not humane?) sources. So to be sure you are only using food industry byproduct down stick with lower fill power! That's assuming the food industry animals are well treated of course …Jan 28, 2010 at 4:42 am #1567127
you've opened a can of worms for yourself here-live plucking of down would not fit with your vegetarian ethics- it would probably be beter for the geese to be killed in terms of being humane-search 'live plucking'. Some comapnies do ethical down- off the top of my head-PHD I think don't use down from live plucking maybe some others?Jan 28, 2010 at 4:56 am #1567129
Hmmm, geese are such lovely and gentle creatures…much more so, than the cattle that make those juicy steaks I so very much enjoy.Jan 28, 2010 at 5:30 am #1567132
Even if it is a can of worms, I'm glad you asked, Michael. I hadn't really thought of this much before. After reading the two articles there are still a few unanswered questions.
Does anyone know if there's a correlation between the fill power of down and the way it was harvested? I'd like to think that higher fill-power means more humane harvesting method, but that's just me wanting to justify everything about buying high quality gear.Jan 28, 2010 at 5:52 am #1567136
If anyone feels guilty about their 750-900 fill power down articles, I can definitely relieve your burden.Jan 28, 2010 at 7:32 am #1567151
For those not interested enough to follow Franco's link, over 99% of our down is, indeed, a by-product of the food industry. I found it interesting that there's actually "too much" down on the market, to the point that some processors in France and China discard the down they process while preparing goose…Jan 28, 2010 at 7:41 am #1567153
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Hmmm, geese are such lovely and gentle creatures
Er, have you ever spent time with geese, especially the big ones? Not so gentle! They can be downright mean and scary! And the big ones can be the ones chasing you around!
I'd say cattle are a lot gentler than geese are.Jan 28, 2010 at 7:57 am #1567159
The move to synthetics, for "environmental" reasons is one which makes me chuckle, or, would, if it were not for the massive devastation of northern Canada and longterm poisoning by pollution of the fifth largest river system on the planet, the Athabaska River. This feeds raw Canadian "crude" to US refineries, which can then supply the Americans with "cheap" oil, which, in turn, is used to manufacture various synthetics.
The hunting/trapping/fishing culture that existed in these regions for roughly 10-12 millenia, did not cause pollution and the various animals were both far more numerous and wide-spread than is the case today…….
I prefer to kill and grow as much of my food as circumstances allow and avoid the huge "carbon footprint" associated with eating foods from foreign venues to supposedly be "environmentally friendly" by not eating what sustained humans here for eons before "vegans" were ever thought of.
I ue down, wool, leather and see to it that I support REAL ecologically sound sustainable activities and avoid polluting industries and products.Jan 28, 2010 at 7:58 am #1567161
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
I have no issue with wearing down items while taunting the 100-200 freaking geese that mooch at our lake.
Biting, aggressive, squawking, pooping machines is what they are! They fly in here in the early fall and stay till late spring – they chase the kids that use the park on the lake and leave the beach littered with their calling cards.
I became peaceful with using down years ago – same with leather. It is renewable and plentiful. And is so warm. And quiet.
Honk! Honk!Jan 28, 2010 at 8:00 am #1567165
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
But let me add that Dewey has it right – and is how I feel. Local and sustainable is best – and that doesn't mean vegan/veg necessarily.Jan 28, 2010 at 8:18 am #1567169
>pooping machines is what they are!
Haha! That just reminded me of what my girlfriend's dad (who speaks German) calls them…Scheissmaschine!Jan 28, 2010 at 8:23 am #1567173
Chinese geese are meaner than European geese!
I'm glad geese aren't still a dinosaurlike 8 ft. tall with razor teeth, we'd have problems worse than bears and wolves!Jan 28, 2010 at 8:26 am #1567176
@leadfootLocale: Middle Virginia
I'm with Sarah on both counts. And no, I am not giving up my nunatak quilt. I will bow in gratitude to every feather for keeping me warm.Jan 28, 2010 at 8:28 am #1567178
I'm with you here, Kutenay…Jan 28, 2010 at 8:42 am #1567182
@earthdwellerLocale: North Carolina
I share your concerns, Michael, and I did a little digging a few years ago in order to better understand goose down production. What I learned didn't ease my mind, and I ended up sticking with synthetics. That's a decision that I question occasionally — after all, down itself is an earth-friendly material that lasts longer than synthetic alternatives. Moreover, as Dewey makes clear, synthetics are clearly tied to an industry that has taken a severe toll on our environment and the creatures (human and non-human) who inhabit it. That being said, it's not as if the production of animals for food, feathers, etc. is free of this taint. Is the environmental footprint of animal production any lighter? I don't know the answer, but I don't think it's a questions we can just gloss over. Leather is natural material, but the production of leather is a nasty process that creates a significant amount of pollution. Feathers aren't processed in the same way, of course, but I wonder about the inputs/outputs that we don't immediately think about. What do geese in larger operations eat? Grains from chemical and petroleum-intensive factory farms? How is their waste disposed of? And so on…Jan 28, 2010 at 8:54 am #1567183
I honestly like geese, a lot more than dogs or cats. Go ahead and laugh. I would probably have a few (just a few) as pets, but I have too many possums, coons, hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, dogs, etc… in the neighborhood. They wouldn't last a week.Jan 28, 2010 at 8:58 am #1567184
@swimjayLocale: Northern California
Like the bumper sticker that says "If God hadn't wanted us to eat animals, He wouldn't have made them out of meat," I suppose "If God hadn't wanted us to have goose down sleeping bags, etc." There are two separate questions–should we exploit a particular species, and if we do, shouldn't we make their lives as good as possible while they're here? So I definitely come down on the side of exploit away (which seems to be nature's way in general) but do nothing that causes unnecessary suffering–and waste as little as possible.
To that end I take very good care of my down gearJan 28, 2010 at 9:35 am #1567206
@cbertLocale: N. California
I think this is an important consideration to engage with before deciding on any activity.
What we are doing is a hobby, afterall, not a livelihood or necessary for survival.
We human animals are empowered to make choices in our lives, something the other animals we share this planet with are not similarly empowered to do, and the choices we make have repercussions for all the other animals.
We in general have not done a very pretty job with our choices.
My own choices have been informed by examinations such as these, and I can't say I've consistently been very responsible, but I generally try to be. I still think down, when all is weighed, is preferable to synthetic fibers because of superior durability and therefore twofold less environmental footprint. But a larger consideration than the material itself is the consumption mechanism: whenver possible and with extreme bias I try to buy second-hand. Regardless of the source material, second-hand purchasing is always the most envirnomentally responsible choice, the trinity in order of value being "reduce, reuse, recycle." The more the first two are implemented, the less the third even need be a question. I have very few items in my possession that weren't once in someone else's possesion.
The other major factor that a couple people mentioned is local/regional sourcing. This is huge. We get most of our food from a local organic cooperative farm. We generally eat what grows in a given season. The little animal product we do consume is either fish/seafood caught by me or my dad, or fish/seafood sourced as locally or regionally as possible.
Someone mentioned veganism being an historically recent phenomenon. With that name, this is true. However, there have been millions of people practicing what amounts to veganism for thousands of years: I am familiar with both Hindu and Buddhist historical practices that would qualify as "vegan" by today's definition. While I am not vegan, I am inspired by the concept and the dedication of its practicioners. Perhaps I could say I'm 80% vegan, reflecting my daily behaviors averaged out over time, and it is, afterall, what we do most of the time that matters most. Perhaps a general societal approach by percentage basis of behavior instead of a more dialectical "either-or" stance would help the situation, help more behaviors be on average less negatively impacting?
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